Sue Ahn Cuddy Oral History Interview. QT file is Susan Ahn Cuddy
(Chatting about technical issue)
SC 09:17:08 KR
I want ah...so that I have on the tape...just so we have it ...Susan, S-U-S-A-NA-H N C-U-D-D-Y.
And when you were in the Navy you served as Susan Ahn the entire time. Correct?
Tell me about...you grew up...you were born in Los Angeles. Exactly, yeah.
So tell me what it was like growing up...l've read that you were one of thefirst, or the first Korean family in Los Angeles.
SCI believe that we were in Los Angeles the first Korean family with mother,father and children and we lived in conjunction with an organization that my father had started to better
Korea...and so it was kind of interesting because it turned out to be like a00:01:00consulate... we had no consulate at that time
and it was, and so any Korean who had a mission to come to American came to thathouse and so fortunate for us we met many dignitaries
that became patriots of Korea as time went on.
KR 09:18:17 SC
And this was, Korea at this time was not... was a territory of Japan. Right?
Oh right yeah, because Japan had taken over in what 1910? and well I was born in1915 so...but,
when that... (unintelligible) where the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion sits now is...was sort of the headquarters for all Koreans because we had no consulate...we had no representation.
And your father was very active in all of this.00:02:00
Very, I mean for the love of country, I mean he was it.
Was he and I know reading your book, it seems like he was very much a...veryinspirational to you in addition to being your Dad...l mean...he was...he was kind of...
Oh, my brother, Phillip. No your father.
Oh, my father yeah...ah...well, you know he was kind of spirit of do the rightthing you know, and when he left us in 1926,
he said, "Be good Americans, but don't forget your heritage" and that issuch an easy formula for any of us because we carry the color...you're never going to be white American.
SCAnd so you have to set yourself into place as a good American, which I thoughtI did when I joined the. Navy...it was quite interesting 00:03:00
because as I went to the continent, many people didn't know what an Asianlooked like, in the Midwest.
KRI know you said...l wanted...there are like three things you said there that Iwant to touch on...but let's start...! will
MaleThere's a tiny bit of glare on the glasses. Did you care? It'svery, very little. KRIs it OK? It's okay now, isn't it?
MaleIt's just on Susan's left...the top of the lens.
KR Yeah, okay...l think it looks...yeah...1 think...if it's notirritating...does it ... MaleIt totally is.
MaleSorry, I would watch the hand...gestures KRMy gestures.
KRI am so close this time.
MaleI've got the two channels miked on you and just one on her. Right? KRYeah.
KRWhen you joined...when you first went to join the Navy...tell me about thatbecause you didn't get in initially. Correct?
SCNo, when the Navy program opened up for the women, I was gung-ho so I came up00:04:00to the Los...
I was in San Diego and I came up and tried to...ah...ah...be part of it, but itwas an officer's training group and I didn't make it ...
bee - well, I mean it was known that it was because I was Asian and notacceptable. A month later, they opened it up for the whole enlisted program and since my interest was in the world of Japan...
I mean it didn't make any difference whether I was an officer or enlisted,so I enlisted and I had every consideration for being an enlisted Asian as anyone could have. 00:05:00
What do you mean by that?
Well, I was always...well, you stand out like a sore thumb for one thing ,and soyou have to behave properly and...but, everyone was very
cordial to me and accepting and I don't think I faced any uh, problemsexcept that many of them didn't see an Asian before in the Midwest like in Iowa.
Did they...did the Navy tell you straight out that... that was the reasoninitially why they wouldn't accept you for an officer?
KRBecause you were...
SCWell, they didn't tell me face-to-face. I did have a friend fortunate atUSC who was in the Dean's Office and she did find out because I was Asian and...
Well, you know at that time we were at war with Asia so it was kind of "iffy"00:06:00since I had all the features of being Asian.
KRWell, people at that time maybe didn't realize at the time also thedifferences say between Japan and Korea.
SCOh, yeah. Everybody...! mean...Well, like when I was going to college I meanthey would ask me what nationality...racial nationality and I know something yes (not sure of this phrase), but they
they'd guess everything except they didn't know what Korean was. Japanhad really done a good job of just burying the Koreans, but people would call me "Eskimo"
oh, any nationality except they didn't know what a Korean was.
KRAnd part of it could be they just had never met anyone. They may not have evermet anyone who was Korean before.
SC 09:23:55 KR
That's true too because...well actually in comparison a few of us...in00:07:00comparison with the Japanese and Chinese.
So you went to college in San Diego? Hmmh...
You went to college in San Diego?
SCYes, I went to San Diego State and I graduated from there and that was alsohappenstance ...! mean I went to uh...
LACC for a couple years and I had a friend there that said that she was going toSan Diego State and did I want to come t oo. Well at that time,
I neither had the funds or the desire to leave home and what my friend did wasshe brought (or borrowed?) $50 from her big sister who was a social worker...
and with that $50, I went down and enlisted at San Diego State...and was that aturning point in my life...actually. 00:08:00
KR SC KR SC KR
Um, what did your...was your father still alive at this point or had he...
He passed... He was gone.
What did your Mom have to say about all ofthis? What was her reaction?
You know...my Mom...when you think about my Mom...she spent her entire lifesupporting the cause for her husband and for the county we didn't have
and...but she was very Americanized actually you know...as we were growing upand down by the USC -
this was after we had kind of grown up, but all the young women used to comearound to ask her how to make cornbread because she knew how. But she was pretty Americanized ...
among all the women of that age, she was probably most Americanized and of00:09:00course she had Philip Ahn who was the forerunner of Americanization...
SC 09:26:07 KR
I mean, he did everything I think that was proper for being a good American. Andthis is...this is your brother?
My oldest brother, yeah.
Yeah, OK, and he was the one who was the actor and...
The actor, and uh, but he was really into being a good American as my father hadsaid when he left, to be good Americans, but don't forget your heritage.
And he was a real principal of that. The second brother also who worked forHoward Hughes and he did all the metallurgical work
on the Spruce Goose and so he had his own thing in many ways, but he...00:10:00
KRHow did you end up living...you said you were living, you were on the Figaro(sp?) Street address and then you moved to the USC.
KRHow did that end up...how did that end up happening? SCHow did that what?
KRHow did that happen that you moved from the one...how did you end up living onthe USC campus?
SCOh, it as...there was a Korean community so to speak around Jefferson andVermont...ah somehow the Korean churches were there
and the Korean National Association Building was there, which was a meetingplace for all the Korean immigrants..so...it was their place to work for the independence for Korea...
so it was really a center for Korean Americans and...consequently there are many00:11:00Korean families that moved in that area
and then you were allowed to live there, you know...you were not allowed to livein many places, but in that particular area of Vermont and Jefferson you were allowed to rent homes
and I don't think anyone bought a home at that time but...but the churchwas built there and it was really a community.
KRSo you were with people who understood your culture and you could relate to inmany ways...
SC KR SC
Well, actually I guess the whole area was black. Mmh, okay.
And it just seemed to me there was no problem.
Mmmh. Did you every feel...like when you went down to USC San Diego...or to SanDiego State rather, you know, that you were kind of having to be...and given what your father had said to you...
KRthat you kind of had to be...you were a representative of what it meant to be00:12:00Korean-American. Like you were kind of the only people...the only other person that people knew like that...
KR 09:29:13 SC
Well, yeah. I don't remember being anything...anything, but American. Imean it was...l knew I had to get an education and I think that was my prime interest.
But, but I was very fortunate...uh...a strange event happened in my life,actually, on that score.
We used to live on the USC campus and there was this professor who was takinggraduate work at USC and he used to pass our house every day, but he was about six feet three tall and I adored tall men.
And he passed our house twice a day...once in the morning...once in the evening00:13:00when to probably to eat or do something. And I always told my mother...
you know, I used to pull her to the window...l said, See that man, you know,that's the man I would like to marry because he was so tall. So she used to laugh at me and without knowing anything about him or anything
I uh...enrolled at San Diego State and I applied for what they call at that timea National Youth Administration job, that was Roosevelt's NYA
and I got the job and the job was being his reader...so-called reader. And whenI reported to his office...there he was and we just became
SCvery, very good strong friends...he was just my mentor through my whole life00:14:00actually because as far as Americanization was concerned,
I mean he gave me more about Americanization than any other person because itwas the first time that I had left the community. Of course, Phillip had already made his way,
but he wasn't as influential on me as Paul Flott (sp?) was.
Um, when you joined the Navy...um what was that like...how did...how did peoplein the Navy react...you know what was it ...what was it just like being there...how was that different from being at home and being in...
Being in uniform... Yeah.
Well, my first station was Iowa and people used to gape at me. You know, I meanthey couldn't believe their eyes: this Asian in American uniform
and Iowa, I mean, they never saw an Asian before...the particular place that I00:15:00was...it was Cedar Falls actually. But, being small...and
you know, very American...! mean all my classmates...thought that I wasgreat...l mean they just thought I was like a toy, you know.
And it was very interesting because I didn't know too much about Americanlife, but as we moved on into different areas...l had different roommates...and that particular time what they did was
they selected most women that had means...! don't know how to put it...but,they selected a group that was all college graduates
and all seemed to have means of living very well, you know...so, but they used00:16:00to kind of protect me, so this would be...
It was interesting life - I would just like to relate this story because it wasso different. We'd have to go different places, but sometimes we had this temporary living so they would send us to a hotel
and the hotel places used to make our beds for us and it was really kind ofplush living...but, my roommate at that particular time was...
I think she was a Wellesley graduate, and she used to perfume my bed and youknow in my whole life I never heard anything like that.
But, I learned such nicety things all the time that I was in the Navy because Iwas always with the first group and they were the select group and it was just a 00:17:00wonderful experience.
KR SC KR
Because you were in that first class. Right? The very first class yeah.
Um, did the Navy...um it seems from what I have been reading in your book andalso in the oral histories...
one of the histories I have read...it seems like the Navy kind of...they did alot of publicity...they used you for a lot of publicity.
SCWhenever they could, yes.
What did they...how did that come to be...how did that happen?
Well, I think number one I was different, and number two I was Korean, and youknow Korea was under the Japanese regime . And then the story of my father...
you know it just made a story that people liked to put in print. I had a lot ofpress, but a lot of attention and care in the Navy. 00:18:00
Oh, I have to tell you this. I was having so much fun in the Navy because I wasin the Naval Air Force and you know with all these fighter pilots I mean they were just a lot of fun
and you were the only women among all these millions of flyers. AndForrestal's office found out that I was Korean.
He yanked me out of aviation and put me into the National Security Agency andthen on top of all that, the captain of the station that I was sent to
was so nervous about this Asian being on his property, he wouldn't let mesee anything for six months...l mean, I just stood around and did nothing.
And after six months, he was not really comfortable so he sent me as a liaison00:19:00to the Library of Congress and so I was the first one that set up the liaison between the Library of Congress and the National Security Agency.
But, that was because what would you call it ...just dumb luck...you know, but,that association still exists
and maybe because we used all the resources of the, of the Library as well asthe resources we had for the National Security Agency.
And you were trying with the NSA...you were supposed to be doing code breaking.Is that what you were doing?
Ah, but that was the function that they did, but I was in the section that did not...
didn't actually do the code breaking but, did see (or feed?) information sothat they could break the code...! mean...
So you were doing...so explain what you would do in that...explain what your job00:20:00was like.
Well, my job was wonderful. I mean, the Library of Congress, if they told me togo find out the capital of India, I would go find out the capital of India. But,
but in code breaking there were...l don't know how you would put it, but
there were a lot of extraordinary circumstances as far as the information wasconcerned because they double talk and my job was feeding information into the double talk part.
And so...what do you mean by double talk...what would they do?
Well, if they were going to send a message, they couldn't put it in a00:21:00straight message...it had to be
camouflaged and my job was trying to fill in the camouflage part.
KRSo you were helping them to kind of figure out how to code the messages soother people couldn't read them.
KR SC KR
No, how to..how to read other people's. Ah, okay.
Yeah, other nations' code.
Okay, so doing something that like may be coming from Japan...or might be comingfrom Germany or something like that...
Japan, yeah..but ah...and then my last position was...
I'd done everything I could and they put me in charge of a big section onthe news, you know, I didn't get to do my own thing anymore...! was just on of administrative...and this is interesting too... 00:22:00
There was an assistant that I had that I had known for years and theydidn't like women. He said to me...he says, "I won't work for any women except you."
I mean...but, we had kind of grown up together...but he was of American Indianblood. Very interesting life I had...yeah.
You ended up becoming a WAVE officer. Correct? Mmh.
You became a WAVE officer...? Yes.
How did that come about?
I was enlisted...! don't remember...do you remember anything about how Ibecame an officer?
MaleYeah, you had the aptitude to be a teacher... SCHuh?
MaleYou were doing Link training and you have the aptitude to be a teacher sothey sent you to gunnery school. 00:23:00
SC 09:40:04 KR
Oh, right. It was after I went to gunnery school...and ah...you know actually Iforgot how I became an officer.
You went to Smith College though...did you go up to Smith College...did theytrain you up there for officer's training?
And what was the reaction up there...l mean what was...did, was it more of thatkind of paying attention to you because you were...
Oh. Well, you know, with an Asian in an American uniform...! mean it was...lknow that once - this is really side talk, but I was in Baltimore and
I was with other Navy women, and I was passing one of these open cafeteriaswhere the windows...
and one person actually, when he saw me, just held his fork in the air in deep00:24:00surprise...because on the East Coast, there weren't many Asians
and here was this Asian in a Navy uniform, you know. So I caused a lot ofruckus...kind of thing...and
fortunately I was not too sensitive...and I just kept going ahead and I had manygood friends...lots of protection.
Um, did you...l mean was it...did you feel like you had some sort of aresponsibility because you were the first...you know you were the first Korean American woman to be enlisted and those sort ofthings...was that, is that...?
We,11, actually, I didn't feel it was my responsibility because I was thefirst Korean-American, but I was the first women in the Navy and then being the first woman in gunnery 00:25:00
I mean I took all that in stride...and maybe I had an advantage because I wasAsian in a Navy uniform...
and I probably was noticed more than most of the other people. And if I did agood job, I mean I was recognized immediately for it.
So you kind of stood out a little bit more in...in a good way.
Well, yeah...most of my experience was on a positive note...you know... Idon't ...
MaleWell, it was your ability as a Link training...! mean what you told me wasthat you excelled as a Link trainer...as an instructor...
MaleAnd they noticed that that ability for you to teach.
MaleWhere did the shotgun thing come from? SCHuh?
MaleHow did they know that you were good with a shotgun?00:26:00
KR 09:43:13 SC
Oh (laughing). To be a gunnery off icer, they sent to Pensacola to gunneryschool...the Navy gunnery school and ah...
one of the things they train you in is skeet shooting...and fortunately I wasable to shoot the skeet...l did have a problem with the SO-pound caliber machine gun...
I had a very hard time charging it. Because it was so big?
It was so big and heavy and you know when you are only five feet one orsomething like that it is pretty...but l...you know I had to do it so I put my foot up against the wall and everything,
pulled with my whole strength...and I did pass that in that gunneryschool...but, then I knew that I had to do something well because I was the um, forerunner 00:27:00
of the women in gunnery...you know, because what they were going to do was sendall of the men out and the women were going to take over and so I knew that and I was in first class so I knew that I had to do well.
How did they move you from gunnery then to the security? Because a lot of womenI talked to, they stayed with one job and that's all they did.
Well, I guess if you're Asian, you stick out like a sore thumb. (laughing)
But Forrestal's office saw me in some event
and at that time, being Asian and fighting the Japanese you know...the Commanderunder Forrestal sought me out
and sent me to what is now called National Security Agency and as I told you00:28:00before they sent me to this station. And the captain of the station was appalled...he couldn't believe that this Asian
was on his station...so he...so for six months I didn't do anything, butfile. And then after that, he was still nervous
so he sent me as a liaison to the Library of Congress and I was the one that setup the facilities to be used at the Library of Congress.
But that was by default certainly not by choice...yeah.
MaleWhy don't we...l am curious, as being the first group...aside frombeing Korean just what did the men...did the men...
did the soldiers...did the officers feel like the women were putting them inharm's way because they were leaving to go fight or what was their reaction 00:29:00when women first started to come in?
MaleYeah, what...did they think...get out of here or you're here to helpus...what was the men's...
SCWell, you know I don't really remember any resentment at all...1 mean youknow we are all in this together...and the women were so few compared to the men...
but I don't think they were ever, uh, felt like we were taking their place.For one thing, the war was the motive and so your personal feelings were not involved
and I don't ever feel that the male officers had any feelings of beingreplaced or anything like that.
It was a mass production and if you are at war...you are at war...and you arenot worrying about individual feelings. 00:30:00
KRYou've got something on your lip...other side.
KROther...yeah...you got it.
MaleWhat about the story about the fighter pilots that didn't agree withwhat you were telling them?
MaleWhat about the fighter pilots who didn't agree with what you weretelling them?
KRDid they...did men resist you training them as pilots? Did they think theyknew more than you did?
SCOh, yeah because they were actually flying you know and I used to tell them, Idon't care what you do up there, but down here you do what I tell you to do, you
know. Because it was training...they didn't like training because they hadbeen fighting.
I mean it was understandable, but l...my thing was I knew how to stand my groundas a gunnery officer
and I had tours coming in and out and I knew I had to uphold myself as a good force.00:31:00
Um, what...you ended up staying with the National Security Agency until youleft...until the...until the Navy...until you left the Navy. Right?
Um, so what was VJ...what was VJ Day like? You were in Washington at that pointin time?
I don't remember, was I in Washington? Do you remember VJ Day?
Like at the end of the war.
SCI do...l do...l do...because everybody was out in the stret jumping up anddown and...l think I was alone and all I could...
I don't know was I married at that time?...
SCSo, if I was not married at that time, I was alone...so l...uh... 09:48:43
whereas everybody in Washington, D.C. was on the streets milling around and00:32:00having you know a big heyday...l just think I just sat in my apartment and thought...oh, at last.
KR 09:49:24 SC
But you ended...you left the Navy but you continued working in the same job. Right?
Why did you decide to stay on? Why not come back to California?
You know, I don't know. I think the thing, it was the thing to do whenwe're at war.
But even afterwards, but even after the war...
Even after the war, you know we were still looking at codes...so an essentialjob...war or no war. I don't remember.
MaleBut, you switched to the Cold War... KRIs that?
MaleYou switched to Russian right when the war ended. I remember in 46-47 when00:33:00you married Dad you were working on Russian stuff.
How did that happen?
SC KR SC
Yeah, how did you get...how did you start Russian...how did you start doingRussian things?
Yeah, I don't remember.
MaleAre you telling me the truth that you don't remember? Are you playingthe NSA game or are...?
SC KR SC
No, I am losing my memory (laughing) . (Laughing)
I am going senile.
KRI don't think you are going senile.
MaleTell her about why NSA sent you to ah...USC.
SC(Laughing) Oh, that was...they did send me to USC for a fellowship for a year. 09:50:34
SCHow old were you - four?
SCOne. He was one. Oh my goodness. MaleDon't tell my stories...tell your stories.00:34:00
Your story is more interes ing.
KRNo, your stories are interesting.
MaleMine are stupid. How did you get to ...?
KRSo how did you end up coming out here...how did you come to USC...why did theysend you to USC?
SCOh, to ...uh... what was it ...Asian studies. I think USC had a good Asianstudies so they sent me out for a year fellowship.
MaleWhat did you study? This is the part she tries to hide. SCWhat did I study?
MaleAnd...what language did you take? SCOh, Chinese.
MaleNo. you took Vietnamese.
MaleYou did the collateral work for the invasion of Vietnam.00:35:00
KRSo learning about...so you could learn...to learn about Vietnam...forVietnam...you were here during the prep work for that essentially.
SCOh, yeah this was even before it was declared and we were doing preparatorystories and you know I don't remember too much about...
SCWhat? (Laughing) You ask me hard questions that I (not sure of word)...
KR Well, okay let's ask about...let's try something easier...how didthe WAVES...did you think...would you go back...if you had to do it over again would you join the WAVES again?
SCTo...well, a double full. I was Korean blood...we were fighting theJapanese...! was American... 00:36:00
I was very American...raised to love and honor America...there was actually nochoice...l mean that was it ...why other women didn't do it ...l don't know .
1...1 think maybe I am a little bit more outgoing...a little more forward than alot of Koreans in my era...
and I think that my family was probably more Americanized than other Koreanfamilies if I could say that. Of course, we had Phillip
I mean who was a guiding light for being American, but he is ten years olderthan I am so you know he was a good role model.
SCBut my mother was really the one who had love of country...and whether the00:37:00love of country was stronger for Korea or America would be hard, you know, because she had a bunch of American kids.
Um, why not though...why the Navy and not somebody else...l mean why not theArmy...why not joining the Marines or joining...you know, the Coast Guard you know had a branch...why the Navy?
Oh, it was their recruiting because they had a real good recruiting system.
They went to the colleges and asked for certain women and the women who wereinterested in being kind of leader type,
they are the ones who applied. But, it was because they opened it up to the women...00:38:00
But I mean the Army had women...there were Army women...so why not...and theywere earlier...so why...why not Army instead of Navy?
Well, I was, the Army was mass...and everybody knew about the Army, but when theNavy program opened up it was new...
and it became a unique thing to apply for it ...and the Navy was more selectiveshall I say...l mean the Army was manyfold...the Navy was a little more selective...
Okay. Um, do you think, um that there was any...that being in the WAVES had anysort of impact. I mean you had a really interesting life because of the WAVES personally.
But, what about outside of your own family? Do you think that the WAVES had anyimpact overall on society? 00:39:00
The race itself?
No, the WAVES.
Oh, the WAVES...no, I just think they were military in time of need...no onethought it was anything different than the thing to do if you were able to ...
I don't think it made you any different.
What about the opportunities that it gave you though?...I mean do you think bybeing you know...would you have had the chance to do the things you did...
to work for the NSA...to go...you know those sorts of things, had it not beenfor the Navy.
That's a good question.
I don't think so, because I went from the Navy function into the NSAfunction with the same function
and maybe it would never have connected if it had not been for the work I was00:40:00doing...it just blended.
Mmh. I was curious because...so many of the women and men and many of the otherwomen did unusual jobs...jobs that maybe women wouldn't do at that time...not traditional jobs that women would do at that time...
so just, I am always curious if it kind of, you know, had some sort of aftereffects in a way.
KR 09:57:33 SC
Well, I think...well in my case, you know, we were at war with Japan
and I presume that was the prime motive that I had to join the Navy, to fightthe Japanese.
Ah...the American white women or black women had to make a choice on their ownpersonal desire...not for a country. 00:41:00
And so, I suppose there is a difference there...you know 1...1 have a motive...acountry motive, then the others have a personal motive...
except fighting for their existence in America.
KRCan you think of any...?
MaleI think...Just to conclude...aren't you asking if it gave women later,because of the work the WAVES had done...is that what you asking..?
KRYeah, that's what I was trying to get at. MaleWell, why don't youask her that way? 09:58:19
Do you think it gave...like say women of my generation...do you think the WAVESopened up opportunities for women overall in society...
KR 09:58:36 SC
like your son's generation...my generation or your grandkid's generation.
Oh, overall I think maybe because it ...the WAVE program showed the world what00:42:00women were able to do outside of their housekeeping home...
...and I think it gave you a,uh, opportunity for choice
which you might not have had if it wasn't for the military or the wars. Ithink well Rosie the Riveter,
I mean but they were pretty military, but with the same desire... to help thecountry. So love of country has a lot to do with it...
and I was fortunate because love of country had to be USA even though I would be00:43:00glad to fight for Korea...
I mean I was more in tune to being a USA...always...and then I married amilitary man which made it very easy for me.
Mmh ...yeah, who you met there...who you met in the service...right...or justafter you got out of the service.
SCIt was a strange story...he was stationed in Hawaii and there was nothingbut...l guess he was one of the few male members of the force there
and then when he came...when he came back to the States, well he, he was sent tothe same component as NSA
SCand he was the only male there with nothing but women. But, ah...but he was00:44:00very tolerant...lrish...but tolerant.
SC KR SC
Can you think of anything else? Is there anything you would like to add? No, Ithink it is very interesting what you do...
how you make this combination is interesting. You are married? Mmh.
Did you meet while you were doing this or...?
No, no, no...we met, well we have been together... Did you develop it together?
Well were you in the ...what is your background?
(Discussion about turning things off, then their background, how they met, theirinterests) Ends at 10:06:26.
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